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How long is a cold contagious?

How Long is a Cold Contagious

We’ve all heard people with a cold say, “It’s okay, I’m not contagious anymore,” but their coughing might indicate otherwise, and you definitely don’t want to catch what they have.

So, when is the common cold no longer contagious and how long should you keep your distance from someone who is feeling unwell?

Typically, a cold cycle lasts 7 – 10 days although it can persist for up to three weeks, depending on severity.1 Although the self-incubation period varies, it is important to spend enough time at home resting in order to recover faster and avoid spreading the virus to others.

What is a cold and how does it spread?

The common cold gets its name from being one of the most common infections. It is generally harmless, although the recovery period can be quite exhausting. After all, a cold is an acute, viral infection of the upper respiratory system involving the throat, nose, and sinus2. Along with sneezing and a runny nose, a cold is also usually accompanied by a cough.

The common cold can be highly contagious as it is spreads indirectly by invisible droplets carrying the virus in the air, or by contact from an infected person who touches you after coughing or sneezing – this makes it easy to fall sick when you are in proximity with someone who has the cold 2. As such, it is always recommended to stay home until you are fully recovered.

Whether it has been 3 or 10 days, the following can help identify which stage of the cold you are battling, and whether it is advisable to return to work or take another sick day.

Cold symptoms usually appear two or three days after you’ve been exposed to the virus. Once your symptoms start, your cold will usually last for 7 to 10 days1. A cough will usually stick around longer than the sneezing that comes with a cold. According to most doctors, a cough generally lasts closer to 18 days3.

DAY 1 – 3

This is when cold symptoms begin to appear. At this point, the chance of transmitting the cold virus is generally at its highest4.

As respiratory droplets contain infectious viral particles that spread to others through a cough or sneeze, it is important to cough and sneeze correctly, especially when you are around people. Always cough or sneeze into a tissue paper and discard it immediately. You should also remember to wash your hands thoroughly with soap after. If you do not have a tissue on hand, cough or sneeze in the crook of your arm. Remember to avoid touching people and to wash up promptly when available.

A cold can leave you feeling congested and you may find yourself itching to blow your nose often. But did you know that blowing your nose too forcefully can cause more irritation to your nasal passage, and even spread the infection5? A typical nose-blow generates 10 times more pressure than a sneeze or cough. So, it is important to blow your nose the safe way - start by moistening your nasal passageways with a saline spray or mist, then blow gently, one nostril at the time6.

To help get through the first few days of your cold, try BENYLIN® Mucus and Phlegm Cold Relief Syrup to help relieve your symptoms.

DAY 4 – 5

You have been in bed for about 4 days now, and although the risk of your cold being contagious has subsided, symptoms such as sore throat or body aches will still be in full effect. You may also find yourself battling a cough, which according to doctors, may last around 18 days3.

It is important not to rush the recovery of a cold and cough. As tempted as you are to continue with you daily routine and perhaps even go out to shop, consider using online services to have packages delivered to your door. This way, you keep the germs at bay by minimizing contact with people.

If you do have to run outside, make BENYLIN® ALL-IN-ONE® COLD, FLU & COUGH LIQUID GELS your go-to. These portable, fast-acting LIQUID GELS, provide relief of many of your cough and cold symptoms in one simple solution.

DAY 6 – 7

A cold should be at its tail end and you should start to gradually feel better. Although it is advisable to continue resting, the risk of transmitting a cold is minimal. This is also the period where you can resume or start some light exercises to slowly re-build your immunity. Ensure that you take the right precautions and evaluate your health before working out.

When you are suffering from a cold or cough, it is important to lower your exercise pace and hydrate often by drinking ample fluids. Since you will be sweating more than usual, the extra fluids can help flush out your cold.

Finally, wash your hands often and remember to wipe down all equipment used. If you are still experiencing a lingering cough even though you’ve stopped sneezing, BENYLIN® Extra Strength Dry Cough Syrup can help make your daily routine more manageable.

How to Prevent a Cold

A cold can be caused by more than 200 types of viruses, making it easy to catch. The common cold accounts for 40% of all-time off work for adults, whilst children are more susceptible to falling ill and can get an average of 6 to 8 colds per year7.

Taking the right preventative measures can help keep you and your family healthy. The following are some tips on how you can prevent and recover from a cold:

  1. Wash your hands thoroughly: 80% of infectious diseases are transmitted by touch8. Washing your hands thoroughly is effective in preventing the spread of colds.
  2. Sanitize high touch point areas and surfaces, including light switches, doorknobs, table tops and remote controls etc.
  3. Exercising regularly and keeping with a light routine when you are feeling unwell can help boost your immune system9. Remember to be careful when working out while you are sick and avoid overexerting yourself.
  4. Eat well and hydrate: fuel up to avoid fatigue and energy slumps. When you are sneezing, coughing or having a fever, avoid junk foods and eat more fruits and vegetables. Remember to also hydrate often.
  5. Rest: sleep promotes good health and it also prevents you from falling sick. Ensure that you get a minimum of 7 hours rest each night.


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